The Collapse Of The Western Narrative For Syria

by lizard

The civil war raging in Syria just keeps getting worse in worse, and the propaganda effort to entice western intervention has collapsed. The regional and sectarian factors that makes this situation so violent (on both sides) and dangerous has bled into the sanitized narrative initially floated to western audiences; that of a popular Syrian revolt comprised primarily of those who first took to the streets against the government.

There may have been truth to that narrative at first, but geopolitics quickly took over.

Now that a full blown civil war has been stirred up, what the skeptics alleged months ago is leaking out, like how the US has been secretly helping the Syrian opposition (Atlantic Wire):

President Obama apparently gave the go-ahead for U.S. intelligence agencies to do everything they can to get Bashar al-Assad out of power in Syria, short of supplying weapons to the rebel forces, according to a new Reuters report. Obama signed a secret order, officially known as an intelligence “finding,” earlier this year authorizing the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies to help out the opposition forces.

The extent of the intelligence support is unknown. Publicly, the State Department said Wednesday they had $25 million set aside for communications equipment for Syrian opposition forces. American officials have been running their support through a rebel command center set up in a town in Turkey that also has a U.S. air base. The air base has a strong population of intelligence officials stationed there.

These kind of revelations may have been shocking a few decades ago, but they’re just the ho-hum of World War Meh now.

The influential (and, I would add, nefarious, but that’s just me) Council on Foreign Relations is even openly extolling the boost provided by…wait for it…Al-Qaeda.

Here’s Ed Husain, senior fellow of Middle Eastern Studies:

The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.

In Syria, al-Qaeda’s foot soldiers call themselves Jabhat al-Nusrah li-Ahli al-Sham (Front for the Protection of the Levantine People). The group’s strength and acceptance by the FSA are demonstrated by their increasing activity on the ground (BBC)–from seven attacks in March to sixty-six “operations” in June. In particular, the Jabhat has helped take the fight to Syria’s two largest cities: the capital of Damascus, where 54 percent of its activities have been, and Aleppo. Indeed, al-Qaeda could become the most effective fighting force in Syria if defections from the FSA to the Jabhat persist and the ranks of foreign fighters (Guardian) continue to swell.

It’s fascinating. Sometimes our tax dollars blow up humans associated with Al-Qaeda, but other times it goes toward supporting humans associated with Al-Qaeda who blow up other people like Syrian soldiers and civilians.

Instead of just cynically pointing all this out, I’d like to repost the two observations from Helena Cobban, a British-American writer who started Just World Publishing. Her post from Just World News is below the fold.


Two observations on the tragedy in Syria

1. War always inflicts grave rights abuses on residents of the war zone. Additionally, its fog allows– and its passions encourage– the commission of a large variety of atrocities such as are very rarely committed in times of peace. Hence, actions tending toward the exacerbation of tensions can never be said to “help” the rights and wellbeing of the numerous human persons who lives in– or or displaced from– the zone of contention… And all efforts undertaken to preserve and protect “human rights” should aim first and foremost at the de-escalation of tensions and a relentless search for negotiated rather than fought-for or imposed means of resolution.

2. In Syria, the situation of the country’s 22 million residents has already been grievously damaged by the past 15 months of tensions that have escalated to the point of an extremely damaging civil war. The social fabric of the country has been very badly eroded– a form of destruction that is even more damaging than the concomitant destruction of physical infrastructure. Whether President Asad goes or stays, it will take Syria many years (and leadership qualities very much stronger than anything we have seen to date from either the government or the extremely fissiparous opposition), in order to recover and heal.

Thus, the key issue now is not, as so many westerners still frame it, “whether Asad goes or stays.” The issue is how Syria’s people can best be helped to pull out of the vortex of sectarian violence into which they are now very rapidly being sucked. Based on all my research and experiences relating to societies mired in, or managing to escape from grievous inter-group violence, it is clear to me that only a pan-Syrian negotiation over forms of government, accountability, and intergroup relations going forward can achieve that.

And to succeed, this negotiation must include, not exclude, the current regime. It was a negotiation of this type that succeeded in South Africa in bringing about a relatively peaceful transition from vicious minority rule to full democracy. In Burma/Myanmar, Sec. Clinton is fully engaged in helping to broker just such a negotiation. The actions of the apartheid government in South Africa and the junta in Burma, were no less brutal than those of the Asad regime in Syria.

In addition, in Syria, it is clear that the opposition is far less committed than, say, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in Burma to the pursuit of a nonviolent path. In South Africa, the ANC did have a military wing. But its acts of violence were few and far between, and inside South Africa they were generally conducted along lines that respected the requirement to attack only military targets. In Syria, by contrast, far too much of the armed opposition has been involved in acts of sectarian violence or other kinds of inhumane violence. There is thus very little “moral” case to be made as between the acts of those men of anti-regime violence, many of them salafis or jihadis, and the acts of the regime– though the regime does command firepower far greater than that available to the oppositionists.

  1. lizard19

    this may be worth noting: Tensions Rise Over Iranian Hostages (WSJ):

    A band of 48 Iranians being held hostage by Syria’s rebel army journeyed from Tehran on a trip organized by a travel agency owned by the elite troops who support and protect the Iranian regime, people familiar with the trip said.

    That connection—denied by Iran, a staunch supporter of the Assad government—suggests the hostages have strong ties to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, as the rebels claim. Tehran, which says the hostages are religious pilgrims, warned it would hold the U.S. responsible for their fate due to its support of the opposition, and vowed to stand by the Syrian regime …

    and then there’s this NYT piece reporting the Iranian response:

    Iran moved on Tuesday to reframe the Syrian conflict as part of a wider battle with the United States and other hostile world powers, dispatching the personal representative of its paramount leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to Damascus for a televised display of solidarity with Syria’s president as battles raged and dozens of Iranian hostages in rebel custody were threatened with death.

    Syrian television showed an Iranian delegation led by the aide, Saeed Jalili, at the presidential palace in Damascus during President Bashar al-Assad’s first televised appearance since a bomb killed four of his top security officials last month. The backdrop of the meeting was a serious escalation in the war, with rebel brigades and Syrian fighter jets facing off in Aleppo, Syria’s largest metropolis, as opposition groups reported shelling or clashes in more than a dozen cities and towns.

    Mr. Jalili, a top diplomat who is also the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Iran would not accept any interference from outside powers in the 17-month-old conflict in Syria, a country that has been a vital piece of Iran’s power projection in the Middle East since the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.

    • jack ruby

      I really doubt those hostages have ‘strong ties’ to the revolutionary guards that is bullshit. The revolutionary guards own so much they are as much a multinational corporation as they are anything else, the fact they own a travel agency does not make the people who bought those trips associates of the ‘revolutionary guards’. The rg are a mafia like fascist organization that owns half the industry in Iran, you have to do business with them to do any business at all. That is a horseshit observation by the WSJ.

      • lizard19

        horseshit or propaganda?

        Q: what would make Syrian rebels look like badasses?
        A: revolutionary guard hostages.

        Q: what would make Syrian rebels look like assholes?
        A: tourist hostages.

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